askST: Is a brown rice cereal with pear concentrate safe for a woman with gestational diabetes?

Reader Kelly Ho is confused by food labels.

She highlighted an organic breakfast cereal that contained 67 per cent brown rice flour, 4g of sugar per serving and had pear concentrate. She is concerned that this could cause a spike in the blood sugar of a pregnant woman with gestational diabetes.

She said: "This can be confusing as brown rice is beneficial but doesn't the percentage of brown rice have an effect of blood sugar level. What is the so-called safe level to consume products with brown rice?"

Senior health correspondent Salma Khalik has the answer.

A woman with gestational diabetes should take the same precautions as someone who is diabetic.

Experts from the Health Promotion Board gave the assurance that foods that are high in whole grains, such as brown rice and millet, actually help to regulate the body's blood sugar response after a meal.

Whole grains are also rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that keep people full for longer and hence, minimise snacking.

However, while whole grains are good for health, it is important to have a balanced diet.

Blood sugar surges can also be controlled by eating protein such as fish, chicken and soya products together with the carbohydrates. Adding fibre in the form of fruit and vegetables also help.

As for the pear juice concentrate, the HPB said that while this could be very sweet, the amount present is low and "does not significantly impact the sugar content of the product".

In Singapore, carbohydrates from foods like white rice, noodles and bread account for 90 per cent of sugars consumed.

The HPB said it wants to grow the awareness among Singaporeans on the need to improve the carbohydrate quality of staples, by replacing refined rice and noodles with wholegrain versions.

The spokesman added: "Replacing as little as 20 per cent of a typical bowl of white rice with brown rice can reduce the risk of diabetes."

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